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Art on a Cart

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From: Linda Papanicolaou (paplinda_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Jun 30 2001 - 15:24:42 PDT


I saw on today's digest several titles towards the end
titled "terrified of art cart." Yahoo chops off the
ends of all the long digests that come to my mailbox
so I haven't seen the actual posts, but since this was
a thread that was opened before and I didn't reply
back then, here are my considered thoughts now.

I've been doing art on a cart for three years. It is
different from teaching in your own classroom, but if
you approach it positively it can be a very rewarding
experience. Surviving and thriving Art on a Cart
hinges on two principal factors: a) careful
consideration of the kinds of lessons you can do, and
b) developing a collaborative relationship with the
teacher whose turf you're on.

The lessons you can do when you're transporting
materials will be different from what you could do in
a dedicated art classroom. For me, the limitations of
Art on a Cart have been liberating. I've learned that
the measure of a good lesson isn't how heavy laden
with art supplies you are when you arrive in class.
I've gradually moved into a mode where I stretch
projects out into lesson sequences and include a lot
of drawing lessons in the preparatory phases of the
project. Some of my favorite lessons this past year
were the simplest: a perspective drawing lesson in
which I just grabbed a pack of paper on my way in
(they already had pencils and rulers), and an outdoor
sketching lesson in which we went into the park sketch
trees with crayons and watercolor washes (we had taken
the art cart with us).

The relationship you develop with your teacher[s] will
depend on the nature of your program. My district has
an elementary school art program called Spectra Art,
which is funded as staff develoment for new teachers.
Teachers are assigned a Spectra teacher who comes to
their room once a week and models an art lesson from
the district curriculum for their first two years of
service. In their third year this reduces to once
every other week and then (presumably when they have
their sea legs with the curriculum) cold turkey.
Recently a number of our PTAs have picked up the ball,
providing art on a bi-weekly basis for whomever the
district has stopped covering.

One could argue that the concept of our art program is
flawed in that it expects non-specialist teachers to
grasp a subject like art in an unrealistically short
period of time. A recent increase in site funding to
extend the district program has also had unintended
consequences. One of these is that the
less-than-enthusiastic teachers quickly figure out
that they won't really be held responsible or
accountable for this part of the curriculum, and you
have to work at getting them to take part. To me, all
this is the interesting part of teaching Art on a
Cart. It's Outreach, and we should all be doing it
anyway.

Whether or not you're in a program like this, I have
several suggestions that will apply to your situation:

1) Moving in and out of other teachers' classrooms,
you'll see many teaching and classroom management
practices. Adapt your lessons to capitalize on the
routines already used by each of your teachers. Make
a notebook so you remember. What kind of weekly job
charts are in place and what tasks are assigned?
Paper passers? Supplies monitors? Art Helpers? What
signals does the classroom teacher use? Clapping,
counting backwards from five, a rainstick, a bell?
You'll learn new tricks that work very well for you,
and you'll probably also see routines that are case
studies in what not to do.

2) The classroom teacher is one of your resources.
She knows her students and knows how to get supplies
passed out quickly and efficiently. She probably
already has some of the stuff you'd be lugging in on
your cart and it will make her feel more useful if you
graciously accept any offers.

3) Getting a reluctant teacher involved is difficult
but has to be done, any way you can. Envision her as
one of the sudents. What strategies are likely to
succeed in motivating her? Can you defer to her in
passing out materials and establishing cleanup
procedures? What would it take to get her involved in
the introductory and evaluation discussions? Have
you clarified your lesson objectives to her?

4) Choose lessons that relate to what's going on in
the classroom across the curriculum. Tapping into
pre-motivated subjects cuts the time out of your short
hour that you must spend in introducing the lesson.
You can really get into the art. Also, find out your
teacher's interests and strengths, accommodate them
and be open to requests. A decorated paper cube
lesson applies to one teacher's geometry lesson and
can equally turn into a poetry cube for another's
literature unit. The benefit to you is seeing your
own lessons in ways you might not have thought of
yourself.

5) If your aim is to provide her with art training,
leave a copy of your lesson plan, ideally written and
illustrated so that she can pull it out of a folder
and reconstruct how to do it. Leave hard copy even if
you know she won't. The more your teachers understand
what you're doing the more they'll appreciate,
respect, trust and cooperate with you.

Of course, you can't do Art on a Cart forever. I'm
looking forward to having my own classroom in the
Fall, but I'll miss my cart. It was a priceless
experience.

Linda P.
PAUSD, Palo Alto CA

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